The Company of
Watermen & Lightermen
of the River Thames

The Master’s Blog Sept 2019

First up in September was to support the lads competing in Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager. This year’s event was held on the 4th September. As some of you will know, the Company provided the organisation this year. With the loss, after three years of Tideway as sponsors, Fishmongers’ sought to reduce their costs. The Company offered to organise the water side of Doggett’s using volunteer Freemen headed up by Craft-Owning Freeman Greg Gregory Jones ably assisted by Ted Manning and many others, too many to mention, but thank you, all of you.

I met up with David Jones, Prime Warden of Fishmongers, Paul Pinchbeck and his guest, Richard Jordan-Baker together with the Clerks of both Companies at Fishmongers Hall earlier that morning.

We walked down to Tower Pier where our vessel, Windrush, was waiting, courtesy of Past Master Kenny Dwan who at the last moment kindly offered us the Windrush to replace the Verity. The Clerk had thoughtfully organised some canapés and champagne. Well why not I did say it’s a tough job didn’t I.

There was a strong westerly wind blowing as we made our up to the London Bridge for the start where the four contestants – Patrick Keech, James Berry, George Gilbert and Jack Finelli were all preparing for the off, then all of a sudden they were on their way heading upstream towards Chelsea. The Race is described in detail elsewhere so I will not repeat with a description here, but it’s fair to say the wind made the conditions brutal throughout.

Both Sue and I were able to disembark at Cadogan Pier and congratulate all four competitors. There was a presentation ceremony at Cadogan Pier where I was asked to present a bottle of champagne to James Berry who came second. The Prime Warden of Fishmongers had the privilege of presenting champagne to the winner, Patrick Keech. It always seems to me that the winner gets all the glory and the other contestants must be content with thinking it might be their turn next year, but I’d like to thanks all the lads for the efforts that day. Well done to you all.

Sue and I then joined the Watermen’s party on board the Mercia where it was obvious that the day was going well and the event had been enjoyed by all onboard and there was still afternoon tea to look forward to.  The Party continued for quite some time as we moved to the Hung Drawn and Quartered in Great Tower Street, the traditional Doggett’s Pub, here, as much as I do like a cup of tea, a few, well maybe a few more, pints of Guinness were put to rest. The place inside and out was full of Watermen and Lightermen celebrating a great day out and another worthy Doggett’s Winner.

The Company has a couple of Working Parties who look after issues for a limited period. Communication Working Party is concerned with our communications with Freemen and the outside world which are vital. As Master I am an ex officio member of all Committees and Working Parties and attending their meeting on 5th September, despite the effects of the day before I was able see some of the good work that is being done in the Company’s name.

The Working Party tries to co-ordinate both the methods we use and what is said. These days, this is concentrated on the Company website www.watermenscompany.com and social media. But we must remember Freemen between them have a wide range of ages so there must be something for everyone. The Annual Report tries to bring the last year together

The following day Friday 6th September I sent our learned Clerk in my absence to the Classic Boat Festival at St Katherine’s Dock to give a talk about the Company. It gave him something to do a Friday if nothing else. The basis of the talk was a slide presentation prepared by Past Master Bob Crouch who is ready, subject to availability, to give the talk elsewhere, if anyone should require

As the representative of the Company, I was invited to lay a wreath at the Merchant Navy Memorial Service at Trinity Square Gardens on Sunday 8th September After a welcoming reception in Trinity House, I joined representatives of the Merchant Navy, the City, London Boroughs and associated maritime organisations for the parade of Merchant Navy and cadet organisations.  We then moved to the area of the Memorial for a short, open-air service followed by the laying of wreaths in memory of those of the Merchant Navy who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars. There are over 36,000 names recorded on the Memorial. It was a moving service. They must have been pleased with my attendance as they have asked if the Masters of the Company going forward might become a Patron of the Charity

The Company belongs to the Maritime Skills Alliance which sets standards for training across the maritime world. As part of London International Shipping Week, the Alliance held a Reception at Trinity House on 9th September and invited a wide range of guests from Government to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency along with training colleges and organisations. I found myself talking to Katy Ware, MCA Director for maritime safety and standards. I hope I was able to explain some of the difficulties we face on the River particularly with some MCA regulation. She did say there is to be a review shortly of the Boatmaster’s Licence with a wide consultation, my own experiences of consultations however have not always been favourable.

In the run up to the Court, each of the Company’s Standing Committees meet. The Committee Members are Court Assistants and Freemen who express interest in offering their expertise on a committee. To make life easier, Committees are grouped together, so they try to meet on the same day, so for example, Apprenticeship and Training meet in the morning and Rowing and River Events in the afternoon. These meetings were on 10th September.

The Apprenticeship and Training Committee deal with the real business of the Company hearing the Training Officer, Craft-Owning Freeman Alex Hickman’s report on the progress of the 26 new apprentices bound in 2019, the forthcoming draw off walk, and possible revisions to the BML training.  The Committee also discussed the work being done towards the proposed Trailblazer apprenticeship scheme and the Company’s response to the Mayor’s Second Round Consultation on Safeguarded Wharfs.

The Rowing and River Events Committee look after organising Doggett’s Wager, our entries in the Thames Traditional Rowing Events, our entry in the Thames Barge Driving Events and the maintenance of the Company’s Shallop, Cutter and Barge. They also plan the Company’s coaching of apprentices to scull at the annually sculling camp at Henley. This meeting was concerned with looking at how the organisation of Doggett’s Wager measured up to our expectations.

The Lighterage Committee was originally formed by the late John Henry to record for history the Tug Funnel Flags, but once this task was finalised, the Committee went on to organise several events for senior and/or retired Watermen and Lightermen. Money raised in raffles at these events is spent on assisting apprentices in their training, particularly rewarding effort through sail training. The Committee met on 11th September and spent time organising River Training Trips and the John Henry Memorial Lunch to be held on 28th November.

The Almshouses and Charities Committee acts for the Court who are the corporate trustee of the Watermen’s Company Charities. Meeting on the 12th September the Committee is looking at converting a double garage into two more bungalows to increase capacity at Hastings. The Committee reviews how expenditure is being spent on the grants it has awarded.

In the afternoon after Almshouses and Charities, the Membership Committee met and we interviewed four new candidates for to be Craft Owning Freeman, all of whom were approved.

On Monday, 16th September I attended my first Livery lunch. The Watermen’s Company has a circle of Companies with which hospitality is exchanged. We are invited to one of their lunches and in return we invite them to our Masters and Clerks Luncheon on St George’s Day. The Worshipful Company of Farmers held a lunch for Masters and Clerks which was a really enjoyable lunch with a young speaker, Ed Burnston, one of the Farmers’ own Nuffield Scholars, speaking about estate management. Interestingly, he spoke before the lunch was served, which is n my short time attending such events is not normally the way.

The Kitchen Committee met on 17th September. It sounds by name, that all it does is look after the Kitchen but that is the responsibility of Martin Laws, our Hall Manager and Mark Grove of Cook & Butler our Caterers. The Kitchen Committee organises the events for Freemen whilst overseeing our catering contract with Cook & Butler.  There was some discussion about inviting wives and partners to more events as well as choosing the menus for forthcoming Freemen’s events.

Another Committee with a misleading title. Library and Heritage looks after all the Company’s treasures, from paintings and prints to silver and much more. The Committee at its meeting on 19th September was overseeing the writing and publishing of the next instalment of the Company’s History Volume 6 from 1921 to 1989. There are repairs underway to some of the Company’s large collection of silver and to a painting damaged whilst hanging on the wall of the Court Room.

Next was a joint meeting held on 23rd September with the Fishmongers Company and ourselves. There was broad agreement that the 2019 event had been well organised and at a cost much less than the years when the Fishmongers’ Company had been in control. This was entirely due to the use of volunteers recruited from amongst Craft-Owning Freemen with experience in organising regattas. The Fishmongers’ Company agreed the Watermen should continue their good work and that the Fishmongers would contribute to the costs.

I meet up on 24th September with the Wardens and Chairman of General Purposes and Finance Committee, Past Master Rass Randall just before his Committee meets. We consider key issues that need a little more debate.

The first General Purposes Committee of my year was on Tuesday 24th September.  This is the meeting that brings together all the committee chairmen so that reports, decisions and recommendations can be reviewed before they are presented to the Court for approval or discussion. It has a skilled Chairman who serves for potentially 6 years providing continuity within the Company. Past Master Rass Randall is to be thanked for handling matters so well.

The Freemen’s Connoisseurs’ Luncheon on 26th September was an experiment of offering Freemen a larger menu with more costly wines to see if there was a market for such events. The Lunch was sold out and comprised 7 courses with 5 wines. I really did enjoy it the food was fantastic, the last time I had a 7 course lunch it’s consisted of a hot dog and 6 pints of beer. We are certainly hoping we can host similar events in future.

I was privileged to attend the Sheriffs Breakfast at the Guildhall on 27th September. It’s a bit like Wedding Breakfast but it’s a lunch. It’s held to celebrate the appointments of the two new City Sheriffs for 2019-2020 one of them being Michael Mainelli one of our own Craft Owning Freeman, some of you may remember him as the former owner of Sailing Barge Daphne.

It was planned to hold a Lord Mayor’s River Progress on the 28th September from Lambeth to HMS President aboard Gloriana rowed by Doggett’s Coat and Badge Winners, accompanied by a flotilla of cutters. I was to be aboard as a passenger. But in the event, the weather caused it to be cancelled. This is such a shame as we have been trying to replace the flotilla held until recently immediately before the Lord Mayor’s Show. This might have been the event, but it was not to be.

A busy month all in all but a really enjoyable one met someone really interesting people and even shared the odd glass of wine and a pint with a few along the way.

Tony Maynard – Master to The Company of Watermen & Lightermen 2019-2020

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